Tasty ways to celebrate Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is coming

Cupid’s annual appearance is just one week away.

If you’re celebrating true love, a true friend or simply looking for something to combat the mid-winter blues, I’ve got a few suggestions.

Winemaker’s CUT, located in the District Wine Village near Oliver, has a special bundle of three rosé wines paired with vegan chocolates from Penticton’s Maison Mulnati. Of note, one of the bottles is their Madama Butterfly Traditional Method Sparkling wine. Hint: Add tickets to that opera, playing live on screen at Landmark Cinema’s in May to this gift.

Love is Blind returns to the Langley location of Township 7 Vineyards and Winery this weekend, and it has plenty of events coming up there and at its Penticton location for future planning. Vin Amité Cellars has special wine pairings coming up Feb. 16, 17 and 18, and the Westside Wine Trail brings back Sip With Your Sweetheart this Saturday, Feb. 10.

In case you missed the news, four Okanagan restaurants recently landed on OpenTable’s Top 100 Romantic Restaurants in Canada for 2024— BLOCK ONE at 50th Parallel Estate Winery in Lake Country, Home Block at CedarCreek Estate in Kelowna, Old Vines at Quail’s Gate in West Kelowna, and PeakFine at Sparkling Hill Resort near Vernon. All can be enjoyed at almost anytime during the year.

Speaking of winery restaurants, Hester Creek’s Terrafina reopens on Feb. 14, or book a pair of seats for you and a friend at an upcoming cooking class before they sell out.

Don’t forget: Dine Around B.C. continues for a few more days featuring more than 60 restaurants throughout the Okanagan serving three course meals for $25, $35, $45, $55 or $65.

If this is the year to take the romance up a notch, the Dragonboat Pub in Penticton is offering tableside vow renewals by Justin, paired with with a three-course dinner. Details and booking info can be found on Facebook.

If this is not the year to go out and indulge, show some love for a local business—any business—by leaving them a great Google review, or a fun and positive social media shoutout.

And if you are able to show some love to a worthy organization with a gift of some of your time, create an account at Volunteer B.C., check out the volunteer listings shared by the South Okanagan Similkameen Volunteer Centre. Bring your beloved or your BFF and share some time together.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Dine Around the Okanagan returns later this month

Dine Around Okanagan

One of the year’s best celebrations for foodies in B.C. begins soon—Dine Around B.C. officially starts Jan. 17 and runs until Feb. 11.

Dine Around features more than 60 restaurants throughout the Okanagan that will serve three-course meals for $25, $35, $45, $55 and $65 each. It’s a tasty initiative to support local restaurants at a time of year that’s typically calm and quiet, combined with a chance to explore an old favourite or discover a new bistro or two.

On Jan. 16, the Dine Around launch party for the Interior will take place at the Metro Hub in Kelowna, a stand-up reception with 10 food stations and wine and beer booths featuring sips, all representing some of the participating restaurants, and offering small bites to enjoy as a sneak peek.

Be sure to book your table, or tables, at a few places before the seats are all taken. Here are some suggestions to ponder.

The Garden Bistro at Peak Cellars in Lake Country will have a $45 three-course elevated comfort food menu (wine pairings are extra), with French onion soup, pork schnitzel and spatzle, and a finale of apple fritters.

19 Okanagan Grill + Bar in West Kelowna will offer several classic starters, followed by a choice of mains from vegan curry to blackened chicken to steak and prawns, finishing with cheesecake or chocolate mousse. If you’ve had their steak, you know it’s one of the best in the valley.

The Beer Institute in Kelowna will pair its brews with menu choices that include burrata toast, veggie tartare, and a curious dessert called pine cone brownies that promises to be covered in milk chocolate.

In Penticton, diners can spend a couple of days exploring culinary hot spots such as the Naramata Inn – plan a winter wine tour along the Naramata Bench on your way there – book a table at Elma or Slackwater Brewing or Cannery Brewing in the downtown area, or check out the very recently opened Palmer Steakhouse Casual in the new Four Points by Sheraton hotel.

Zia’s Stonehouse in Summerland is a long-time participant in Dine Around, known for its pasta, seafood, and extensive wine list.

Book a getaway to Osoyoos, and maybe stay a night or two at Spirit Ridge Resort, within steps to Nk’Mip Cellars and its inspired menu, and The Bear, The Fish, The Root & The Berry. The latter will have a three-course lunch option as well as a three-course dinner menu.

More menus and locations around the province are being added as the countdown to Dine Around begins. Follow Dine Around on Instagram and tempt your tastebuds.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Let's get back to creating dishes and appreciating food

Returning to recipes

The idea of New Year’s resolutions feels a bit outdated. Often made, many fade away after a few weeks.

The word itself, from Merriam-Webster, in part, is defined as the act or process of resolving, such as the act of answering or solving.

Which brings me to a question about so-called one-dish creations that, I think, needs an answer: When did people decide that throwing a pile of seemingly random ingredients into a large aluminum foil roaster pan was a good idea?

Many videos of these dishes have popped up for me on social media lately, surely because Internet algorithms point this content in my direction. The majority begin with the large aluminum pan on the counter – in one memorable case, with the paper info sheet at the bottom left there to bake along with the food – followed by the placement of a large block of cheese or tube of ground meat in the center, which is then surrounded by the dumping of cans of veggies and condensed soups around the pan’s edge.

I hope these dishes are edible, but I’m not sure many taste all that great.

My second question is: Why waste these products? Many are shelf stable, and it seems to me a solution to solving the increasing need at food banks and related charities might be to donate these items where they are needed most.

This is not to slight anyone using crock pots, air fryers or Instant Pots to solve the question, what’s for dinner? I’ve seen many good recipe videos using these devices to save both time and money, and I am a major fan of one- (or two-) pot or pan recipes. But the key word here is “recipes.” So, let us go back to the idea of a resolution.

Maybe 2024 is the year we return to recipes.

Pull out those retro wire-coiled cookbooks from the back of the dusty cupboard or a drawer, create a digital or paper file folder of dishes you found online, ask friends or relatives if they can take a pic of their favourite family recipe and message it to you.

Save a few bucks by having the ingredients for a recipe on your shopping list, rather than winging it when you’re in the store or save that list to an app and watch for sale items.

In 2024, let’s respect the process of making a meal, resolve to appreciate the time and thought that goes into cooking and creating a dish, and recognize, to quote Cesar Chavez, that “the people who give you their food, give you their heart.”

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

The Okanagan Taste Christmas gift guide

Gift ideas for Christmas

Holiday gift guides are in season, and they are plentiful.

Full disclosure, no one asked me for one, but I’m going throw my gift list suggestions into the collective seasonal hat anyway. Why not?

For the sweet tooth, Accent Chocolates in Penticton has a delectable list of options from bars to bon-bons to boxes for yourself, a host or hostess, or your favourite neighbour.

Further south, you may be in luck to get on the list for chocolates from Backyard Farms. Further north, Sandrine French Pastry and Chocolate never disappoints, and there are wonderful savoury selections too.

Sweet sippers? Give the gift of a Forty Creek Whisky cream. Original, butter tart or Nanaimo Bar. Get all three, wrap them up individually, and have the lucky recipients decide which one makes the tastiest cocktails or spiked coffee or mocha. Tip: why not try baking with one, or using a cream liqueur in your holiday trifle?

While sipping, you may want drop a good book or two into a gift bag.

The author of Skid Dogs (Douglas & McIntyre), Emelia Symington-Fedy may be a familiar name. Creator of the podcast Trying to be Good, this memoir of her formative years growing up in Armstrong, B.C. pushes some of the boundaries that girls and women who grew up in the 90s wish were toppled long ago.

The Wild Horse of the Chilcotin, Their History and Future, by wildlife biologist Wayne McCrory (Harbour Publishing), dives into equine genetics, the tie the qiyus have to the T?ilhqot’in culture, and their right to exist in balance within a bruised ecosystem.

Somewhat related, Douglas Lake Ranch, Empire of Grass, by Donna (Yoshitake) Wuest and Joe W. Gardner (Harbour Publishing), examines the history and modern inner workings of Canada’s largest ranch. Once you’re done streaming Yellowstone, pick this up for a local history buff.

On the savoury side, order a hand-crafted charcuterie board from Boards of Keremeos – Board of Festivus anyone? – to give those spending their time in kitchen a break. Pair with a holiday wine bundle from Phantom Creek, a bottle of Nk’Mip icewine, some locally brewed Kizuna Sake, or The Crown from Noble Ridge, especially if binge watching The Crown is on the agenda.

Need more inspiration? Enjoy two-in-one late night shopping at Penticton’s Visitor Centre and the BC VQA Wine Information Centre, and easily wrap it all up.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

A creative thinker with more than two decades of experience in communications, Allison is an early adopter of social and digital media, bringing years of work in traditional media to the new frontier of digital engagement marketing through her company, All She Wrote.

She is the winner of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association's 2011 and 2012 awards for Social Media Initiative, an International LERN award for marketing, and the 2014 Penticton Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award for Hospitality/Tourism.

Allison has amassed a following on multiple social networks of more than 30,000, frequently writes and about social media, food and libations as well as travel and events, and through her networks, she led a successful bid to bring the Wine Bloggers Conference to Penticton in June 2013, one of the largest social media wine events in the world, generating 31 million social media impressions, $1 million in earned media, and an estimated ongoing economic impact of $2 million.

In 2014, she held the first Canadian Wine Tourism Summit to spark conversation about the potential for wine tourism in Canada as a year-round economic driver.

Allison contributes epicurean content to several publications, has been a judge for several wine and food competitions, and has earned her advanced certificate from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust.

In her spare time, she has deep, meaningful conversations with her cats.

She can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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